Do you remember what you were like at 19? It’s that age where you start loosening the ties with your family, and your friends become more and more important.
You may have been travelling the world with a backpack and not a lot of cash in your pockets. You might have been just starting your first full time, pulling on a cheap suit that made you feel like the CEO.
You might have been partying hard, wishing you hadn’t decided to have that one Vodka Cruiser too many.
Or you might have been falling in love, gazing at an adoring distance and wondering if this might just be the person you’ll spend the rest of you life with.
These early experiences bond friends for life. When you’re first fully embracing your independence, the people who are along for the ride become more than just mates, they become your world.
I remember feeling so unbelievably close to my friends at that age that I used to think I would die to protect them.
Thankfully, I never had my friendships tested in that way.
But Zac Young’s mates did.
Nineteen year-old Zac Young, was surfing with his friends at Coffs Harbour in northern NSW last week, when he was fatally bitten by a tiger shark.
Details have since emerged of Zac’s last minutes; the time when his young friends tried desperately to save him and ultimately sat on their boards in wounded states of shock, watching their friend’s life ebb away.
Zac used his final moments to tell his mates that he loved them. “I love you boys,” the teenager yelled.
Friends say that this speaks to the person that Zac was. A fine young man, who loved the surf and loved his mates.
But what I cannot stop thinking about is how incredibly, heart-wrenchingly difficult it but have been for those boys at sea with him. And how difficult it will continue to be.
To deal with a mate fatally wounded, exhibits a level of maturity and strength well beyond the years of these boys. Abandoning concerns for their own safety, they swam to shore with Zac. They were fully aware that the shark was most likely still beneath them but they wanted to take their friend back with them.
Too often, young men of this age are lobbed together as hedonistic and selfish. They are derided and are the subject of rolled eyes and sighs of concern for their tom-foolery and pig-headedness.
Zac’s friends remind us that stereotypes are just that. Stereotypes.
These young men deserve nothing less than our deep respect and gratitude for their heroic behaviour.
RIP Zac Young
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